Monday, June 28, 2010

Soft Pretzels

I'm still in a bit of a mood after having to redesign my blog and having so many problems doing so, but I think I've finally gotten it the way I want it, and now I'm just working on some minor formatting issues that will hopefully be resolved by the time I publish this post. Unfortunately, my camera was still channeling Picasso when I took these pictures, so it was still in its Yellow Period. I think I've finally fixed it though, so stay tuned for less jaundiced pictures, hopefully coming soon.

I know I've turned my focus to desserts, but I kept coming across these soft pretzel recipes on a lot of the food blogs I read. Technically, pretzels aren't dessert (unless you dip them in chocolate frosting or sprinkle them with cinnamon and sugar. Yum!), but they still require baking, so I'm making an exception. I've been lusting over pictures of homemade bread and bagels, and especially homemade pizza dough, on a lot of other food blogs, but I'm missing a few key components that make all of those recipes possible: a dough hook for my mixer and a baking stone.  So although I would love to experiment with all kinds of dough, I decided for my first baking attempt with yeast dough, soft pretzels sounded quick, easy, and most importantly, delicious.

Unfortunately, my pretzels came out with a bit of an inferiority complex. I tried to tell them size doesn't matter, but there was only so much I could do; clearly they are much smaller than your average soft pretzel, but who doesn't love mini food?! They're like little baby pretzels. Plus, you can totally get away with eating two of them at a time and not feel guilty about it, right? Right??

I think the size problem likely has more to do with the yeast I used and less to do with the recipe itself. Although I checked the expiration date on the yeast and it was still months away, it had been hanging around the kitchen for a while and may have just been too old to really be active. It did smell yeasty and seemed to bubble after letting it sit with the warm water and sugar, but after looking at some pictures on other blogs of what active yeast should look like at this stage, I think mine was probably a bit too elderly. I guess I'll have to make this recipe again with yeast I know is fresh, for research purposes, of course. And while I'm at it, I might as well experiment with more toppings and flavorings, too. Cinnamon Sugar? Garlic? Parmesan cheese? Nom, nom, nom.

Size aside, these pretzels had the perfect flavor, exactly what you would expect from any soft pretzel. They were doughy, a little sweet, but also nice and salty. The outside had a prefect soft crust, and the inside dough was even softer, tender, just a little chewy, and completely satisfying. I dipped mine in some yellow mustard which made it even more delicious. I loved the salty crunch of the coarse kosher salt, and probably would have added even more than I did since I like my pretzels extra salty. The bottoms burned slightly, but I think that may have been a defect of the pan or my oven, or maybe because I used parchment paper as opposed to a silpat. The pretzels themselves didn't taste overdone, and even the browned bottoms hardly made a difference in taste, so I don't think it had anything to do with the baking time. This is a great basic starter recipe for easy and quick soft pretzels.

Soft Pretzels
Yield: 6 Pretzels

1 tsp active dry yeast
Pinch of sugar
1/3 cup warm water
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 tbsp white sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1 tbsp canola oil
3 tbsp baking soda
1 cup hot water (as hot as your tap can get)
Kosher salt

1. Dissolve yeast into water with a pinch of sugar, let stand 10 minutes, until the mixture is creamy colored. 
2. Mix the yeast mixture with flour, sugar, salt and canola oil, and knead until combined (a few minutes, not even 5).

3. Let the dough rise in a greased bowl until doubled in size, about 1 hour.

 Hmm, looks much the same...
4. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. When the dough has risen, pinch off a handful and roll it out into a long strand. Set aside. Repeat with the rest of the dough, about 6 times.

5. Once all the strands are rolled out, pick up the first one and stretch it out again (the gluten will have relaxed and it should stretch further now). Twist it into a pretzel shape and place it on a baking sheet lined with silipat or cooking spray. Repeat with the rest of the strands.

6. Dissolve baking soda into hot water and stir until dissolved. Quickly dip each rolled pretzel into the mixture and place it back on the baking sheet. Sprinkle all the pretzels with kosher salt, to your preference. 
7. Bake for about 8 minutes, until pretzels have browned.

Best eaten the day they're made.

Next Indulgence: Black-Bottom Cupcakes


  1. They were so good and, I'd like you to note, very ship-able.

  2. You don't need a dough hook, kneading by hand is very ... earth mother.. and you may enjoy it! But get the stone, definitely get the stone.

  3. Just need to add some spicy mustard. I was craving these the other day!

  4. Haha yellow period. And who was the art history major? Yummmmm i hope you made extras to bring home...I think bc they are soft i may somehow, someway, might be able to figure out, if I try reallllly hard, a way to eat them!

    See you in a few days for our July 4th cook-a-thon


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